Sand Forest Lodge Weekend Outing

Report by Cheryl Bevan

24 to 26 November 2017

For our last weekend outing for the year we went to Sand Forest Lodge in Hluhluwe . We had a great turn out – eleven in total.

A few of us stopped at St Lucia on Thursday on our way to see if we could find the Gull-billed Tern, Sooty Tern and the Eurasian Oystercatcher who have been hanging around for a while and lucky for us we all saw the two Terns.

Sooty Tern – John Bevan

On Friday after we had all set up camp we gathered for a braai catching up and planning for Saturday.

Starting off at six in the morning in very rainy miserable weather we set off through the forest expecting to see nothing. After walking for about an hour we had only heard and seen a few birds. Narina Trogans were calling but although we got close we did not manage to get a view of them.

We perservered entering the open grassland area and it paid off.  Seeing European Bee-eater, White-eared Barbet, Neergaard’s, Purple-banded and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Narina Trogon and more……………

Some other sightings of interest. A Baobab in the garden was flowering. An unknown caterpillar and a sunbird nest which we would like identified. It was thought by some as a Neergaard’s Sunbird nest. And a spotted-tailed Ant.

Spotted Thick-knees were nesting on the grass in front of the chalets.

Spotted Thick-knees – Paul Bartho

Here are some of the birds seen at Sand Forest Lodge.

After breakfast and tea time we set off to False Bay where we had great sightings of hundreds of Greater Flamingos and White-breasted Comorants as well as Whimbrel and other waders.

Common Whimbrel – Paul Bartho

We were excited to find a smallish dark wader which had us confused for a while until we realised it was still in breeding plumage. A Curlew Sandpiper [we always hope to find something rare] but this one was still in breeding plumage.

2 Curlew Sandpipers – Paul Bartho

After Lunch and a short rest we hit Muzi Pan – an hour away.

Black Heron on the other side of the pan, Ruff, a flock of Glossy Ibis, Burchell’s Coucal, Squacco Heron and other waders- Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilts among them.

Sunday morning we birded on the property again picking up 102 birds for the weekend. This is Cheryl Bevan’s Bird List:

We all went home happy and tired.

Cheryl and John Bevan

Mkuze

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

22 to 24 November 2017

Prior to going on the BLPN Weekend Outing to Sand Forest Lodge, Sally and I decided to spend a couple of nights camping at Mkuze.

The campsite has a lovely layout with two ablution blocks. It’s main issue is lack of maintenance and site management. The other issue is that they charge for 3 people minimum, making the cost for two people prohibitive unless they are offering discounts.

Anyway we enjoyed our two night stay despite no water on the last morning.

Candy-striped Crinum Lilies

All the hides were open but there was little water  at the hides except those at Nsumo Pan and kuMasinga.

Anyone wishing to identify this tree? It’s fruit is the size of a Gooseberry and yellow/orange in colour.

KuMasinga was quiet both times we visited. However there was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 8 goslings wandering about near the water. What was interesting was to see all 8 goslings (at this stage no longer small chicks) snuggling together completely under mother goose. Not sure how she managed it.

Egyptian Goslings

Also seen at kuMasinga hide were:

Terrapins sunbathing

Nsumo Pan was overcast and windy, rain threatening. Despite that we had what we thought was an unusual sighting of 6 Comb Ducks on the opposite bank from one of the hides.

Also a Whiskered Tern was seen chasing a White-winged Tern for some reason.

As we left Nsumo Pan we heard a call – Woodland Kingfisher. We scoured for the source of the call without success then just as we started to turn away from the water we heard it again and I managed a photo from a distance.

Woodland Kingfisher

Driving around we came across a couple of juvenile raptors – an African Harrier Hawk and a Bateleur. Each was being bombed by angry birds. In the case of the Bateleur by a pair of Broad-billed Rollers.

The Crowned Eagle we saw on the previous visit made an appearance too.

Crowned Eagle

Here are some of the other species photographed while traversing the Game Reserve.

Little Bee-eaters

Over the past several visits to Mkuze we had not seen any of the big cats. My sister visited a few weeks earlier and said she had seen a Cheetah near a camera trap near the far end of the Beacon  Road. So as we passed by the camera we made an effort to see whether this cat frequented the spot. No luck. Then – having started car and driven about 200 metres there she was with 2 juveniles. Lovely sighting.

Cheetah with collar

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Paul and sally Bartho